Lawyers working to locate immigrant families separated by the Trump administration say they have been unable to reach the parents of 545 children in an effort imposed by the coronovirus epidemic, as filed in court on Tuesday.
“People are constantly asking me when we will find all the families and I unfortunately don’t know,” Lee Gellernutt, the lead attorney for the case and deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project, told Buzzfeed News. “The number tells a story, but each person’s child has its own story with its own human dimension and so we cannot stop until we find each family.”
In 2018, the Trump administration systematically separated thousands of children from their parents under a so-called “zero tolerance policy”, in which federal jails before parents went to court accused of entering the US without authorization was shipped. Because the children cannot be sent to federal prison with their parents, the government separated them, listed them as underage minors, and transferred them to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody.
Wednesday’s report stems from a lawsuit filed in February 2018 by the ACLU on behalf of a Congo refugee who has been identified as Ms. L, who was separated from her 7-year-old daughter by US immigration officials. The mother and daughter were reunited, but the case was expanded into a class-action lawsuit covering thousands of immigrant families separated by the US government.
Following the revelation last year that the Trump administration was actually tearing families apart, as part of a pilot program in the summer of 2017, the class was expanded to include another 1,030 children who died on July 1, 2017 Was separated from his parents.
As of Tuesday, a committee of law firms and nonprofits created ACLU to track separated families has attempted to reach the parents of all members of the extended class, who successfully reach 485 children.
Being unable to reach the Guardians’ Committee, the ACLU believes that about two-thirds have already been sent to their home countries.
“The contact information the government gave us was largely rancid, so we are looking for families on land in Central America … but because of COVID, the search for land is prohibited,” Gellert said .
He described the situation as “exceptionally tragic”, stating that some children, who are living with sponsors in the US, who are from a close relative of a foster family, were separated from the child just three years ago and now. Were. More than half of his life separated from his parents. ”
The report said that while ground efforts were suspended due to an epidemic, those efforts are starting again.
“The Steering Committee’s intention is to continue the physical on-the-ground searches while it is safe to do so, and will continue to update the Court on its progress, particularly if such searches are again due to travel restrictions or health risks.” Should be confined or suspended from., “The report states.
Adolfo Flores contributed reporting.